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Slimmer, trimmer Jay Cutler appears to care more

The preseasopener Saturday provided evidence thquarterback Jay Cutler has undergone mind-set makeover. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

The preseason opener Saturday provided evidence that quarterback Jay Cutler has undergone a mind-set makeover. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 19, 2011 2:56AM

NFL Department: After watching the Bears-Bills preseason game I am left with the impression that Jay Cutler must have found a life coach in Beverly Hills and employed him for a makeover.

The Bears quarterback is lean, his double chin is only 1 1/4 chins, and most of all, he seems to have developed personal skills.

He patted teammates on the back. He talked to somebody up in the press box on his head set. He made small chatter with Brian Urlacher.

He acted as if he

cared . Maybe he doesn’t, and it’s all an act. But that unfortunate image of him as blase malingerer in the NFC title game last winter is one that he needs to shatter to pieces.

Maybe a life coach explained that to him. Or maybe life itself is doing the trick. Whatever, Cutler’s mental and physical fitness are so important to the Bears’ future that it was comforting to see this small step. Even if the sacks have started again.

NBA DEPARTMENT: Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullin, Artis Gilmore and Tex Winter were among those inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

I have fond and varied memories of all these men, each of whom I have spoken with during my writing career.

Ol’ Tex, the inventor of the triangle offense and a longtime assistant to coach Phil Jackson, isn’t doing too well these days because of a stroke. But he used to be witty, competitive and fun to talk with about the theories of putting the ball through the iron ring. He was feisty, too. And he should have been in the Hall years ago, when it mattered.

I remember hanging around with Gilmore back in 1981, when he was an All-Star center for the Bulls, for a Sports Illustrated story. He was so kind and quiet, a 7-2 giant in a land of gawkers.

‘‘Artis has pretty much come to grips with the fact that he stands out, that he’s special,’’ his mom, Enola, told me. ‘‘But there’s a lot more he still has to deal with.’’

As I wrote in my story: ‘‘Even Gilmore’s supposed friend, the rim, has cracked him in the head a few times, extracting tufts of Afro that cling to the hoop like iron filings to a magnet.’’

Brooklyn street-baller Mullin loved basketball so much that he once stayed after a Golden State Warriors game he had played in to watch a bunch of writers and public-relations guys run the court in a pickup game.

He sat in the empty stands and watched. And we later found out he actually wanted to play.

And what can anybody say about Rodman? His speech at the Hall was nutty and emotional, as we knew it would be.

I wrote a book about the Bulls during their record-setting, 72-victory championship season in 1995-96, and here’s a segment on Rodman arriving for his Michigan Avenue book-signing: ‘‘With the blast of his Harley drowning out the fevered neighing of the police horses and the screaming of the fans, the 6-8, silver-haired, heavily made-up drag queen parks his hog near the front door of the store and then minces for the adoring crowd and TV cameras. He has on a low-cut leotard, a crucifix necklace, leather pants and silver motorcycle boots. His fingernails are silver, his eyes are done up like a luna moth’s and something that resembles a segment of a bicycle chain dangles from his right ear. He could be the king of the gay machinists’ ball.’’


Strike one, two, three. He gone.

◆ FINANCIAL DEPARTMENT: With no end to the NBA lockout in sight, we’re hearing about all the players who will jump to foreign teams to pass the time and make some cash until a new collective-bargaining agreement is done.

We in Chicago will survive Carlos Boozer playing in China, as he has hinted he might. And we’ll survive Joakim Noah taking ‘‘the tornado’’ to the French national team, which he already has done.

But the thought of seeing Derrick Rose play elsewhere this winter — or not play at all — is truly depressing. There is a statistical study that says good basketball players improve until age 25, at which time they plateau for a number of years before beginning the slide to earth.

D-Rose is 22, and for Bulls fans to miss even one of his remaining years of athletic ascension would be as painful as snow boots full of slush. Chicagoans missed 11/2 years of Michael Jordan.

David Stern and Billy Hunter, please don’t take away our blooming Rose.

◆ TENNIS DEPARTMENT: Serena Williams against Lucie Safarova.

I know the outfits in women’s tennis have been getting skimpier and tighter. I didn’t die after Margaret Court retired.

But as the woodsman sheds his togs with exertion until he is clad in little but underwear, so, too, does the racket-fisted fashionista.

Radical dumpings have occurred for years, including when Anne White came out for Wimbledon in a white bodysuit in 1985. That outfit made White, a slender, flat-chested blond, look like a helmetless Austrian luger or a hungry ballerina in search of a tutu. Wimbledon recovered.

Then came the Williams sisters — more specifically, Serena. She is to straight lines as a cumulus cloud is to telephone poles. And to fashion? She is a revolutionary.

If you happened to tune in to see her quarterfinal victory Friday against Safarova at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, you know what I mean. Serena’s lime-green, skin-tight top was molded around her upper body the way Jell-O molds around plastic dessert dishes.

The jiggle was so grandly and voluminously significant that
slow-motion shots of Serena’s returns and serves were, for all intents and purposes, not suitable for families who haven’t had the talk yet or for teen boys anywhere. I’m just telling you.

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